Former Pitt running back Qadree Ollison was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft in April, and since then, he has been eased into the game. But on Sunday afternoon, he made a splash by running in the first touchdown of his NFL career during his team’s 29-3 rout of the Carolina Panthers.
Ollison’s touchdown run came in the second quarter of the NFC South matchup, with the Falcons up 13-0. The Pitt alum had been used sparingly up to that point in the game, with Falcons running back Brian Hill getting the lion’s share of touches. Nonetheless, on 1st-and-goal at the Panthers’ 2-yard line, Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter felt confident in Ollison’s ability to punch it in and called his number. Moments later, Koetter was rewarded with six points on the first rushing attempt of Ollison's NFL career.
The Falcons would turn to Ollison three more times, giving him the ball in another goal-to-go situation and two late-game runs. In each of his final three attempts, he ran for three yards, bringing his rushing total for the day to 11 yards on four carries. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, Ollison gained yardage with every touch and was the only Falcons rusher to score against the Panthers.
Sunday marked the first regular-season action Ollison saw in the NFL, and it came in a week in which the Falcons were without starting running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman was listed on Atlanta’s injury report with a foot injury last week and did not practice. He was eventually ruled out for the matchup with the Panthers, creating an opportunity for Ollison that he took full advantage of.
It’s unclear how Ollison will be utilized by the Falcons moving forward. The team will start Freeman when he becomes available again, but with Ollison performing well and Hill only able to average 2.0 yards on 15 carries, the former Pitt star could hear his number called again in the coming weeks if Freeman remains out.